India's lunar landing made a mess on the Moon
'Ejecta halo' detected by orbiter reminds that life on Luna will be dirty, gritty, and sneezy
India's Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has published research that reveals its Chandrayaan-3 mission made quite a mess on the Moon.
The mission's Vikram lander touched down on August 23 without incident, becoming India's first successful Moon mission – as well as humanity's first craft to land near the lunar south pole.
It then proceeded to roam around the Moon, conducting experiments on the surface materials until it entered a planned sleep mode in early September. It was hoped it would awaken on September 22, but alas it did not.
However, scientists were able to make discoveries from the mission despite its less than two weeks of life.
According to ISRO researchers, over two tons of lunar epiregolith – the top layer of Moon dust – were ejected and displaced to an area of over 100 square meters around the landing site when the spacecraft landed.
Scientists were able to compare the pre- and post-landing high resolution images from a camera residing on the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter to detect the ejecta halo. Their research, published last week in the Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing, explains that the halo was created by Vikram's descent stage thrusters.
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The halo was described as an "irregular bright patch surrounding the lander."
The discovery sheds some light into Moon dust material and lunar geology. It can also inform future interactions between lunar-bound astronauts and their environment.
Astronauts are scheduled to land on the Moon during the Artemis III mission in 2025 and NASA wants humans living on Moon space stations in 2028 as part of Artemis IV.
The fine yet abrasive silicate-heavy material on the lunar surface has proven to be hazardous for all 12 past humans that have set foot on the Moon.
According to the European Space Agency, exposure to Moon dust caused symptoms ranging from wheezing to nasal congestion that lasted for days in some cases, and made the inside of the Apollo 17 spacecraft smell like gunpowder.
The problem is compounded by the low gravity on the Moon, which keeps epiregolith particles suspended in air within spacecraft.
One study has already determined that "chronic or long-term effects of such dust exposure could be a problem for future missions."
But it's best to know these things now, to make preparations or amendments for future missions. ®